Siobhan Davies + Tim Crouch

“What happens happens, because we are attempting to get somewhere else - that's my work. Mostly we are attempting to reach inside an audience's head and the minimum of whatever is required to reach that place is what I try and achieve in the work.” Tim Crouch, Playwright / Performer
  • SD _ Do you recognise the word choreography in your work?
  • TC _ No, I can be brutally frank and say that when my agent phoned and said Siobhan Davies wanted to talk to me I immediately said ‘I think she’s trying to get hold of Julian Crouch the designer, because why on earth would she want to talk to me’. I would never have considered my work had any relationship with the word choreography, although coming here and teasing out the words ‘dance’ and ‘choreography’, to divorce the word choreography from dance and realise what choreography might be about, was a bit of a new chain of thought for me. What happens happens, because we are attempting to get somewhere else – that’s my work. Mostly we are attempting to reach inside an audience’s head and the minimum of whatever is required to reach that place is what I try and achieve in the work. Everything physically and movement-wise, how the space is organised very rarely gets considered. That’s why when choreography was put to me it was such a shocking revelation. Yes, of course how the piece works physically is really important, but it’s not hopefully a division between the physical work happening on stage and the non-physical happening in your heads. My hope is that the non-physical work will also happen on stage.
  • SD _ That describes some of the intent behind your work. When you lay out the everyday objects given to you by the audience at the beginning of The Arm, how was that use of transformative material brought about?
  • TC _ The Arm was the first thing I wrote and was never rehearsed. We at no point sat in a room and looked at what was happening. We had previews at Battersea Art Centre where we had a friend, (Hettie Macdonald, who is a film and theatre director, who came in with my friend Karl James) and we just spent the days talking. Hettie suggested a different way of approaching the evening and I approached the evening differently. We then talked about how that was and through that lovely dialogue we found a language to talk about the show. The word ‘random’ is a really important word. A great excitement for me is to have no control over how people respond, not to attempt to fix them in their response, but to maintain a certain randomness in the nature of what we are presenting in the knowledge that there is lots of good meaning to be got from this. I don’t want to narrow it down because there might be something that I’ve completely forgotten or haven’t noticed and that’s for you as an audience to pick up on. If you do pick up on it then that’s great, but it won’t be because I have consciously directed you to pick up on it. I mentioned when we met before the Duchamp quote: ‘the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed’, which is such an important one for me. I’m aware that constantly in theatre and in any art form things are being expressed that had no discussion in rehearsal, were never intended in the process. Rather than trying to track those things down and squash them, my hope is to let them be and let them grow and go wherever they want to go for an audience. My job as a performer is to do very little and I don’t work very hard in my performances in the traditional sense.
  • SD _ Going back to the objects, I recently saw a work by the choreographer Jérôme Bel. He made this work which allowed the audience to make connections (Nom donné par l’auteur, 1994). He sets up a situation in which he uses twelve objects - for example a bag of flour, a hairdryer, a book, a ball, a hoover, a pair of skates - choreographically, like nuggets of material. He faces another performer, Frédéric Sequette, and between them on the floor are the objects. They both choose to pick up one object and hold it there for enough time for the audience to register them and imagine a relationship between them. They put the objects down and choose another. This process repeats but gathers other complexities. The work is silent and made me feel refreshed and refocused by the concentration. Can you talk further about the impact of the personal objects gathered from the pockets and handbags of your audience, except for the wooden doll?
  • TC _ Okay, I am played by someone, I am played by a little mannequin, an action man figurine, who is mine. The story is about me living with one arm above my head. He is the only person who puts his arm above his head and I did feel I needed to have something. Similarly there are these sequences of film that I felt I needed to have. If I was pure - I think I can be a bit of a theatre whore at times - and I think that’s probably an act of theatre whoredom, the film and the action man. I could have just taken any object and then imbued that with the notion of its arm above it’s head and I didn’t, I’ve got a physical representation of myself.
  • SD _ I think that kind of whoredom is alright then, because I think it helped us move into the realm of objects. You were trying to include the audience and the miniature figure was useful.
  • TC _ Yes, exactly. I don’t want to be abstruse, I don’t want to confuse anyone. So, it’s very clear and I do have a little speech at the beginning, I collect objects from the audience. They always go crazy, they always give me loads of stuff, they have a great time. I come back on stage and I go ‘wow, I’ve got too many and what this means is that some of you are going to leave tonight feeling really disappointed because your object wasn’t used’ and they all have a little laugh and I go ‘well, no, I’m telling you this because really some of you are…
  • SD _ …going to be disappointed, it’s true!
  • TC _ …and I say then ‘but listen, it’s not personal, I select these things entirely at random’. So I lodge it in their brains there: it is not personal, it is selected at random. So I have trained myself (trained myself!) if I wanted an object to represent my mother, not to seek out the bangle or the lipstick or the feminised object but if a feminised object came, then that was it. I had no choice on that, I selected it at random, I will not look, I will just get the first thing that comes to my hand and that becomes my brother and so what is exciting in that random process is then what the audience overlay, apply onto that. It is nothing that I as the artist have been conscious about but something huge has suddenly walked in the room and I haven’t done it, they’ve done it, we have co-authored it.
  • TC _ It is also a sense of playfulness as well, I think that’s the most important thing and what has been interesting is to have been taken up by universities and by semioticians and theoreticians and yet that my work has play at the root of it. At the root of this is a child coming in and taking something and imbuing it with the life of something else. It is as playful, it operates on that level and similarly with An Oak Tree the actor doesn’t have to be in role the whole time. There is no role and again looking at the idea of children’s play and how a child can be suddenly somewhere else and then stop and have their juice and then go back into it and there is no sense of ‘Oh, I’ve lost my concentration, I don’t know where I was, I’ve lost my character, oh I can’t do this any more’.
  • SD _ There are also those tremendous role plays I remember playing as a child, in which we spent ages working out our rules of engagement, who was playing who and what would happen. We talked more than we did. The talking and the preparing were the game. In An Oak Tree you instruct the second person on stage, who does not know the play they are about to perform at all. There is a real element of game in that.
  • TC _ Yes, completely: playful and not aggressive. I have been fascinated by the responses that An Oak Tree has got because in some places people have gone ‘this is an appalling act of control on your part, to put somebody who doesn’t know the play into this situation and tell them what to say and where to go and what to do’. My feeling very much with that show is that I am facilitating them to go wherever they want to go with it. There is a very clear story, there is a script. There are in my head some very loose physical markers, little places where we ought to be at certain times, which is the theatre whore. In a way if I was free and I said to the actor ‘wherever you want to go is fine’ we might end up in the lobby and that would probably be a bit of a problem because, there is an audience here. We’d have to really work that one through, so there are little, I call them beacons and hopefully a beacon will free you up. If you know that at some point I’ll go ‘can you come and stand here and I’ll stand there’ it means that if they know that that is going to happen throughout the course of the play they are then free to go wherever they like. If they don’t know that is going to happen they might go ‘whoo! I don’t know where to go, I don’t know if I can do this’.
  • SD _ I want to pick up on something here because I sense in you an enormous desire for a well thought out structure giving liberation and I do think that you have made terrific open structures. So your commitment to freedom genuinely springs from the idea that the structure is going to give us freedom and in the image of the half empty and half full glass, does that mean that some people really do think of you as a manipulator?
  • TC _ What a great question. Your finger is on the button. Yes, I do believe strongly that structures do provide freedom and if you have no structure then you go to pieces. Without a form to contain the content, the content can’t I think go free.
  • SD _ Without the form we don’t have a shape to find the liberty to explore and experience the work.
  • TC _ Yes and the act of transference doesn’t take place. It becomes an indulgence rather than a gift. So yes, structuring is absolutely fundamental in England and it is absolutely fundamental in An Oak Tree. Some people don’t see it and that’s always astonishing, but I think that’s partly a testament to how we are as theatre goers and what we have been trained to read when we look at the stage. What they don’t see is that within every action in An Oak Tree there is the possibility of a hundred other actions. They still apply the traditional rules of traditional theatre, which is ‘this is how it is’.
  • TC _ The words are always the same, but we don’t go to the theatre to see the words. If we did that we could just pick up a script. We go to the theatre to see the meshing of the soul, to see someone reveal themselves. We go to see the emotional thing, the thing that isn’t scripted, that’s what we go to and so that’s the thing that I have no control over. I hope I’m not being disingenuous again by saying that I have no control over it. I probably have become more experienced in trying to give the right kind of provocation towards freedom and that might actually be an act of control in the wrong direction. I try very hard not to do that. Caryl Churchill is a great person who has seen the show a number of times and I hope people who do see the show a number of times will go ‘Oh, wow, it is really, really different’ and I am going ‘well yes, of course it is different’ because half the cast has changed and also half the cast hasn’t got a clue where/what… and half the cast has been authorised to be as free as they like, but let’s be honest, we are offered freedom, most of us haven’t got a clue what to do with it. That’s really important.
  • SD _ Both you and Caryl told me that the actress Linda Bassett was extraordinary in An Oak Tree. What did she understand?
  • TC _ She didn’t understand anything – that’s why I think she was genius. She just had an innate intuitive access to the moment. She didn’t put in place a set of defensive practices, she didn’t go ‘I know the way, I am going to get through this is if I do this kind of acting and she was terrified, petrified before the show which I think is always a good sign because I really do work hard to, in that spirit of ‘hello, you are great, it’s all great’. If I don’t say ‘you’re great’, I know that if they start doubting themselves, all openness - which is the thing I dream about - will disappear.
  • TC _ I don’t think it’s disingenuous for me to say that we are trying to let the audience be free, let them do whatever they like. But, what I’m aware of as well is that we are playing with a series of forces and dynamics that exist and pre-exist and will always exist, which is expectation. As soon as you enter an aesthetic space, then things become more significant. The Brazilian theatre maker, Augusto Boal, talks about the ‘gnoseological space’, which is a knowledge enhancing space – the aesthetic space. (The Rainbow of Desire: The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy byAugusto Boal, Adrian Jackson, Routledge 1995).
  • TC _ That’s a very important idea in theatre, that you place an object in a gnoseological, aesthetic space and it suddenly accrues properties beyond the material nature of the object. So that is fundamental to all the work.
  • TC _ But going back to England, expectations abound. The word ‘look’ is used but clearly we are not pointing. There was an interesting journey in rehearsal which was trying to realise that we didn’t have to give any physical clues what so ever. I had one long conversation with someone who saw the show who said he felt we hadn’t been pure enough with the way we did the play because the audience were looking at us. That would be a dream for me, for the audience not to look at the performers in Act One of England, so I think we failed on one level. But I also think it’s probably an impossible dream, because how would you do that? We know that if you turn your back to the audience you become even more gripping, you become even more magnetic and an audience is desperately trying to unlock meaning, tease out metaphor and symbol, so how do you neutralise your importance? I have no answers to it, but I know that one of the impulses was to try and remove us, to bring Alex Hartley into the space, to make a connection between the story that we told, the request to look, not coupled with a physical direction to where we should be looking, but just to look. Also, there were lots of discussions about how one looks at a work of art, how one’s eye follows a work of art and how a work of art doesn’t tell you where to look, but allows you to come in and out of it at your own level, with your own set of narratives, thoughts and ideas. Again I’m excited about that because that is also a random thing: how I come into a contact with a sculpture or a work of art is entirely up to me.
  • SD _ …Yes, and on the particular day you choose to see something and with the mood that you are in.
  • TC _ Absolutely and there is an objectivity in a sculpture or a piece of visual art that just exists, is there, immutable and we as an audience move and change around it, bring ourselves into it. So how we look at visual art has always been the work, with My Arm, An Oak Tree and England, what prompts us as an audience and how active we are in that relationship with visual art as opposed to how we are traditionally in theatre where all the moves have been pre-ordained. In England the most satisfying performances were when people occasionally lay down on the floor or just put their heads in their hands and listened and took themselves physically away from us. I can’t say scientifically how we were successful in authorising that but when it happened it felt very important.
  • TC _ I am as conscious in the use of space and the physicality in space as you are, but in terms of removing myself, releasing myself, removing as much as possible the traditional signifiers in space. The act of removal is as strong an act of replacement, because I am not creating a vacuum, there is no empty space. What floods into that space is as conscious, strong and physical an idea as if I got a group of people to do strictly organised movement across space.
  • SD _ …and it can be in the movement of thought.
  • TC _ Yes and also it is in the physical, how Hannah and I work the audience, how we relax and free the audience, how we look and smile. There is an issue about smiling for me. I have an innate distrust of art that takes itself seriously. I do take art incredibly seriously, but I don’t want to look serious in the process. My feeling is that without simplicity and ease what you do is you close down an audience’s access, you create a false shield of some sort. The audience then has to have a distinct relationship and I want them to have an inclusive relationship. So the flip side of that is sometimes they’ll go ‘Crouch is smiling at us again’ and I feel ‘well I don’t think it’s a forced thing. I want us to feel you are with me and I am with you and today I’m authorised to tell you the story and tomorrow you might be the one who tells me the story and it’s absolutely fine’. There is no specialism, I suppose, that’s the key word. There is no training to what I do, there is just an existence as a human being in the space and the gnoseological space has given me a sort of significance maybe in this space. You might have that significance tomorrow but it’s not necessarily because of anything that I have done or the training that I have had. I think the distinction with dance or choreography is that there is a discussion about training.
  • SD _ What is good about what you have just said is that I am nervous of the word training when attached to the art of dancing or movement. It can be a necessary focus but it needs to be done in terms of open learning and not copying. If you are going to use your body you need a really good conversation with it and that good conversation takes time. By using time and repetition your body changes and instead of it being inert and sitting it becomes a place of activity and play. The moment it becomes training rather than a place of expression, activity and play, then that is what I am witnessing, the expertise.
  • TC _ But to be inert and sitting is still a physical action.
  • SD _ Yes, you are right. It’s just from the perspective of many dancers, we try to stand up and engage with the body, the space it is in and what kind of energy is needed.
  • TC _ I know, but that’s interesting, because you can engage with your audience sitting down and being inert. It’s a physical form of engagement. How we read those gestures, how we read that inaction can be as powerful as how we would read action, or preparedness.
  • SD _ Oh yes, and what is silence in music and what is stillness in activity.
  • TC _ It’s the key. We have always said with England that the first Act without the second Act is pornography. I don’t mean sexual pornography, but I mean it is exploitative. It is exploitative of an illness, of lots of things and only through the second Act, the unravelling and revelations of the second Act do we become more profoundly connected. It works retrospectively, so there are lots of chimes in Act Two back to Act One.
  • TC _ In the second Act we are somewhere else, so I really take theatre on. It becomes revealed in the course of the second Act that we are in a ghastly western hotel where a meeting has been arranged between the person who has had a heart transplant, the wife of the man whose heart is inside them and one other who is an interpreter. The audience is the wife and it becomes subtly revealed that the audience is probably veiled and we are in an Islamic country. So in that year money has passed hands, a heart has been sourced, an operation has taken place and the protagonist returns to thank the wife and as a thank you present returns with a work of art. It is clear in Act One that they are afficionados, that the boyfriend has a number of pieces that he loves and it is suggested that it is one of those works. It is worth a lot of money.
  • TC _ So there is a huge clash between these values, between culture, art and place. The audience are ‘the character’ and it is now split, so one of us as an actor is ‘the protagonist’ and one of us is ‘the interpreter’. Half way through Act Two without any razamataz we swap roles. The person who was the interpreter is now the protagonist and the person who was the protagonist is now the interpreter and we connect with the audience. In the second Act I maybe look at six people in total. We talked about this in Lisbon and Hannah said she looked at maybe eight. So we are looking at different people and we are absolutely talking to them.
  • TC _ The play ends with a request from the wife (who is the audience) to touch us. She asks if she can hold, touch… the word ‘touch’ is really important. It’s so important that he misinterprets the word and then he understands what she says and she says, no she is asking to touch you. So that’s what the audience does and what’s great of course is in my stupid naïve way going into rehearsal for that scene, I thought there would need to be from the actor some kind of physical movement to register the fact that in the world of the drama a veiled woman is coming to place her hand against the heart of somebody – her husband’s heart - and then of course in rehearsal it was absolutely glaringly obvious what was going on and the fact that it wasn’t being duplicated physically. The word ‘tautology’ is such an important word for me, I think so much theatre is tautologised: something is said and something is shown and it is just overkill. So we are very keen to keep that open, to let the audience make all those pictures in their heads, which they do.
  • SD _ So you have explained why I think of you as a choreographic artist.
  • TC _ It’s interesting you asking me to come and talk to you about it. I am ferociously controlling in that respect about how it should be, but controlling in that I shouldn’t control it - but then the word control is also there.
  • SD _ When I work with dancers I want everyone to contribute but the material eventually has to have an accuracy to be able to go through the eye of a needle without fraying. I am the person who will see everything from an external perspective. The dancers have the internal knowledge, which they explore and we use each other’s eyes to provide feedback and gain the accuracy. Material is tested to see if it demonstrates what we wanted or shows us something else more potent.
  • TC _ And are you able to recognise that perfection because of your background, or do you think that is something that is commonly understood and felt by an audience?
  • SD _ I think it is tricky for an audience, but I think an audience does, woohoo…
  • TC _ So we’re going to get into spiritual stuff!
  • SD _ …is opened up to a true moment and they may not know and completely understand that truthfulness because they don’t have easy access to movement within them. They will sense the absoluteness of it, recognise an unnameable quality. Recently four English dancers worked with an American choreographer called Deborah Hay and I believe she was trying to get them to a point of free accuracy. They developed connections between the thinking and the doing which became one. I think the audience could discern this even if they could not describe it. I saw two separate performances. In one of them the dancers performances were a little disconnected and the audience became less observant.
  • TC _ What that prompts in me, this issue of ‘true moments’…
  • SD _ I know it is tricky saying that.
  • TC _ No, it is great, because, let me just follow this: the issue of true moments. So, in a dancer and in an actor - in a human being - I suppose what I am trying to do with An Oak Tree is absolutely offer up the possibility for true moments all the time, but not in any kind of trained way. An Oak Tree is a play that can be done by anyone and there are lots of issues about why do you only use actors and I can talk about that because I am only using actors and I will only use actors, but it can be done by anyone. Anyone can do this play if you can read, because they have got to read a script. I had a fantastic experience in Brazil where we were setting up to do the performance and we were going to do a technical run through. I said to one of the Festival helpers ‘would you be my second actor’ and she said ‘Oh, no I am not an actor’. I said ‘no, it’s fine, would you…’ and so we did the whole play with her and she was electric. Nobody saw it. At the end she was blown apart by where we had gone, where the story had taken her. She had no idea that would happen she didn’t read like an actor, but what she read like was heaven and true.
  • TC _ So, this is an important thing for me because it might not be possible in the dancing, the choreographer you talked about, to get anyone out and offer them the possibility of that true moment using the forms that are the disciplines that we are working in. But there is something in theatre which is not abstraction. It is not abstraction and it is abstraction, but it is using the everyday and we all have an understanding of the everyday and also An Oak Tree, every time it is done it is successful. Even if it is not successful, it is successful because the idea is proven: that the everyday can be elevated. Someone coming in with no understanding or knowledge of the play can suddenly be transcendental of themselves and of the world without having to have done any ounce, one scrap of preparation for it. That’s really exciting for me, as a huge notion of freedom I suppose. The form, the structure has to be there or else people will just go to pieces.
  • TC _ There is this issue I was thinking about today about choreography and about any action that is not necessary to function.
  • SD _ …and does that apply to words?
  • TC _ Yes, as soon as you enter a story telling or a fictional place then all these words are no longer necessary. Words are less necessary I think in life than movement of course and I think about an old lady called Rosemary who is ninety-nine. Every movement she makes is necessary and functional. She is bent double. Everything in her whole apartment is set in such a way that she can always find support as she crosses a room. The idea of Rosemary suddenly doing something completely abstract or non-functional would be astonishing and beautiful for me and I would suddenly be transported because I have never seen her do that. She talks about dancing at the Savoy in the war, but this is a woman whose body is just right down low now, so everything is just functionality.
  • SD _ Edmund de Waal makes these very simple pots. Not one is identical. His form is the cylinder, and the emotion and the conversation with the watcher comes because no one cylinder is alike another. Each holds the individual marks of its making. Each in its difference brings about a different reaction and when you collect them together, they work as a community and give us the potential for a different response. What I wanted to say is that he gave himself a discipline. When he made sixteen pots, he had sixteen pieces of clay of identical weight – porcelain clay - and in three movements made the cylinder. He had to hold the clay, drop it on the wheel, bring it up, take it off the wheel and place it and each pot took a minute to make. So within roughly sixteen minutes…
  • TC _ Structure.
  • SD _ …it was a form of timing structure, placement structure, action structure, thought structure. Now I don’t know why I’ve told you about this now, but there was something that you said that made me want to tell you that.
  • TC _ Well, okay, the word that springs to my mind when you say that is ‘perfection’.
  • SD _ But he doesn’t like perfection.
  • TC _ Well alright, the word that springs to mind is ‘imperfection’ then, because that for me is the most exciting thing. Perfection contains within it another of those forced shields that prevents us entering it. It creates its own universe to which I do not belong because I am not a perfect thing. My world is imperfect and imperfection from a flaw is the thing that lets me come in, that recognises me in relation to it. I can’t speak authoritatively about dance but I have seen theatre performances where I think there has been a notion of the perfect movement, or gesture or moment and I resist that and I think that’s very clear in the work that I do that I resist it as much as possible by in a controlling way relinquishing control. I find that because perfection also implies training, something that is a life work that is separate from the everyday and these things all militate against my access to them. So the most immaculate body, the most perfect gesture, for me I can observe as a thing of beauty but I cannot connect with it.
  • SD _ Is it perfect because we already have an idea of it in our heads and it fulfils that idea of a known shape or a familiar practice?
  • TC _ Well, yes, for example every moment culturally we are re-negotiating our notion of perfection or of a finished moment and this happens a lot in theatre. There is the physical theatre movement and there is a notion of what being ‘open’ on stage looks like. I see it all the time in actors and actually what that has now become is a kind of carapace. It’s like a fixed shell of openness which is as closed as the thing that they first started exploring openness to confront and remove. So openness develops a cultural form and as soon as it develops a cultural form it is no longer open. That’s why, however An Oak Tree is done is great. If the second actor screws it up completely, if they are embarrassed and stutter, if they overact, if they try and do a Laurence Olivier on me, if they cry all the time, as long as it is them responding to the moment they are in then I am excited by that. I do not have a perfect notion in my head about how that show should be. I do say beforehand, ‘there is no right way to do this play and there is no wrong way to do this play. There is just the way that you and I will do this play this evening and it will be different tomorrow. The idea that someone would develop a way of being in An Oak Tree is a terrible thought. I think as cultures we have shorthands and we have vocabulary around what a perfect or true moment looks like and as you say, it is only in the relationship between the performer and the audience at that moment in that time. That is why I think we are in danger when we start to notate movement or notate theatre or talk about great performance and historicize it because the great thing about dance and theatre is it is just for now. TV and film you can watch again and again and again. You might have a different response to it but the thing you are watching is the same.
  • SD _ So I’m now going to ask you one more question. My new work will be performed at the Victoria Miro Gallery.
  • TC _ Well my initial response is, be as honest as you possibly can to the reality. I don’t know what your project is, but the idea that there is movement, there are dancers in space and moving and when there is nobody there do they stop?
  • SD _ No, no. The point is that they keep going even if nobody is there - if that’s possible.
  • TC _ Okay and so when people come in, do they acknowledge somebody’s entry?
  • SD _ That’s the problem we have not solved, I don’t want to be falsely welcoming. On the other hand I don’t want an audience to shuffle in because they think something is happening and they are going to disturb it.
  • TC _ Yes, too precious.
  • SD _ Exactly, but we would like to have a visual artist’s thinking or intervention as part of the process. We are speaking at the moment with Anri Sala.
  • SD _ Because, like you, I like the idea of being in a visual art space, in which an artist has been involved in some of the decision making, some of the enquiries - not a theatrical space.
  • SD _ I wanted it to be in a space which would cause different connections in how we think. Does an audience bring a certain part of themselves to one situation but not to another? What are the tensions and alternatively the clear paths between the performers and the audience when we are in the same room?
  • TC _ One of your DVDs is filmed at Victoria Miro and that’s with a traverse audience.
  • TC _ You turned one space into another.
  • SD _ Yes.
  • TC _ Well that connects completely with the notion of structure. I just think it’s really, really important. You will notice in My Arm, (I’m being ruthless in the editing of my material), I say ‘That’s thirty years in an hour’, ‘that’s one year every two minutes’ and the audience go ‘Oh, it’s an hour, great, okay’ and also in An Oak Tree at the beginning I hand them a piece of script and I say ‘do you have any questions?’ and they go ‘No’ and I go ‘Not really, are you sure?’ and then they read from the script ‘How long is the show?’ and I go ‘It’s just over an hour’ and they go ‘okay’.
  • SD _ …and so everybody knows.
  • TC _ That temporality is a lovely idea I think and again those durational pieces are very exciting for me as long as I know what my rules of engagement can be. I have seen a lot of theatre that makes me feel stupid and nobody is stupid. I hope An Oak Tree and England and My Arm can be seen by a twelve year old child and they’ll get it.
  • TC _ The thing we haven’t talked about today is narrative. That’s one of the structural things for me. It’s really important and I am quite concrete in my narratives.
  • SD _ You are and that is my challenge because I cannot be completely convinced by dance narratives. I feel that the embodied knowledge includes physical, emotional and sensational knowledge, the flip and flick of the thoughts that go through our mind. So one of my pleasures is this idea of being able, because of you being an integrated human body, to move between the abstract and the figurative at any given moment, because I think that that is a recognition of a human state.
  • TC _ I think it is completely.
  • SD _ Some of the time I feel that can lead me down an obscured path because extended movements away from normal human physical vernacular are less comprehensible and I am genuinely interested in not being obscure. Yet, this extended movement is part of human activity, an ingredient of human enquiry and imagination.
  • TC _ Yes, that issue of complexity for me is so important and there is simplicity and complexity. I always try and find a tag line to describe the story that I am going to tell in the play in one sentence: a boy puts his arm above his head and never takes it down; a man turns a tree into his daughter in An Oak Tree and the story of a heart transplant basically in England, that is what it is.
  • SD _ I could probably never do that!
  • TC _ I actually think what happens with that level of simplicity on stage is that it provokes a complexity of response from the audience and I think we adult grown up intellectual artists are worried about being simple. We want to show how complex and intelligent we are and if you really want to show how intelligent you are, be really binary, be really, really simple here. Trust your instinct to know that the primary nature of your narrative, because it has come from all this complex background, will have something more than just what it is. On the radio yesterday talking about Greek myth on ‘In our Times’, about how the myths are told, again and again, everyone in the audience knew what the myth was, they knew the story, but myths are profoundly complex structures of reception of that story. Similarly with ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or the fairytales, they are fiendishly complex in terms of what they are really talking about. But they are also just ‘Once upon a time there was a girl’ and ‘once upon a time there was a god’ and as soon as you try to abstract or complicate that story, that’s the artist getting in the way of the transference to the audience to a degree and I want to go ‘why do you need to do that?’ Is this the current language of theatre that we can’t just be this simple, or that ‘this simple’ is somehow mistrusted as being naïve? It’s not naïve. Often it is that self deconstructing language of theatre that is the naïve one.
  • SD _ I feel that there is a richness of understanding that lies within the history of the body. It is something that everyone has experienced since being a single cell. Luckily for us we can’t remember everything but it is within us and I want to recognise that without necessarily getting clever about it. In the last piece I did I tried with the dancers to make a series of movement characters. I wanted the audience to see four people facing them, one after the other, with the ability to convey information through the language of movement which was neither mimetic nor everyday. I want the audience to become absorbed in a developed physical language.
  • TC _ A transcendence.
  • SD _ I don’t think I am there yet but it is something at the moment I can’t leave alone. With all the things that you say I am completely with you and yet I know I am going to go back into rehearsal and go ‘I could demonstrate this by…’ Have you seen Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion?
  • TC _ No.
  • SD _ I really suggest you go and see them if you can. They are a dancer and a musician and it’s a dance performance that lasts an hour and they just sit and stand and use rhythm and everyday movement. It is incredibly funny and incredibly accurate and incredibly moving and I still know I am going to go back into the studio and go ‘so what else is there, what is this extended language that every part of me feels I need to explore even though I realise it lands me in the shit some of the time?’
  • TC _ …and on that bombshell…
  • SD _ … we’ll stop!